The Budget Gallery is a temporary art show in co-opted public spaces like vacant walls and fences. The shows are carefully co-ordinated, prepared, and publicized. The pieces are displayed much like a traditional gallery. We paint walls white (where we can), install art works and labels. We announce openings that are attended by hundreds of people. Refreshments are served and one can often hear jazz playing in the background. Of course, this is no traditional gallery - it is still all taking place on the sidewalk. In the end it's a blend of all the greatest things about attending an art show, a garage sale, and a block party rolled into one.

Because of the rules the Budget Gallery operates under, the shows curate themselves, artwork is inexpensive to buy, and the show itself is inexpensive to put on. The resulting art show is presented in public space with affordable works in a casual setting. All the work and the openings are documented online. The show both brings the local arts community together, and mixes them among random passers by who may never walk into a gallery on their own.

The Budget Gallery aims to provide fine art at affordable prices to unsuspecting customers. We do this through presenting gallery style exhibitions in outdoor spaces - generally on vacant walls, chain link fences, and sides of abandoned buildings - in high traffic areas.

The Budget Gallery strongly believes that art has a prominent place in the world, that art is beneficial to everyone, and that art is under-represented in the public. The Budget Gallery's shows bring art into public spaces that need diverse messages expressing emotion and depicting issues that represent the depth and breadth of humanity.

Guidelines of the Budget Gallery

The Budget Gallery operates under certain guidelines that help define what we do. I think of these guidelines as "the rules of the game". Like a game, there are many outcomes that can happen within the rules, but if you choose to play by different rules, then you are playing a different game. For example, when you play baseball with a larger ball and pitch underhanded, it's not the game of baseball anymore, it becomes the game of softball.

These are some of the guidelines the Budget Gallery operates under:

This manual is designed to help you create a show based on these guidelines. If you operate under these guidelines, you are making a Budget Gallery show. You are also welcome to change the rules and call your system something else, like making softball from baseball.

Selection Process

As a result of the guidelines in the Budget Gallery open call for entries, each exhibition tends to organize itself.

Because our shows are in public spaces we attract artists who wish to interact with the public in those spaces. Because we can't guarantee a work will be sold, we attract artists whose motivation is not primarily financial. Because we don't promise anything in return, we attract artists who want to release their work into the world with no promise of anything in return. With our guidelines, we've found we don't need to select work or turn anyone away. The artists select themselves for the show because they agree to the terms.

A note from Steve Lambert on un-curating

I've never liked every piece in a show, but I remind myself that the show is not about my taste or my skills as a visionary curator or anything like that. For me, the show is about bettering public space, and community participation and interaction with public space, by involving as many people as possible. Those who agree will join you by participating. In this way, the Budget Gallery should not be exclusive. Anyone can and should take part. - Steve Lambert

Honor system

photo by Rob Prideaux

While most people are familiar with the honor system, it is rarely used as a form of commerce. There are so few instances in the world where the public is held to such a standard as the honor system, but the Budget Gallery is in a position where this is possible.

The honor system depends on the trust of passers by to pay for the art work they take, despite the fact that there is no way of ensuring that they do. It works surprisingly well. Around one-quarter of the leftover work after a show is purchased on the honor system. While some art work is, technically, stolen, this is the greatest honor of the [ Budget Gallery, because it means someone wanted the work so badly they were willing to abandon personal and societal morals to acquire the piece. Anyone who wants an art work enough to steal it, should probably have it.

Because the Budget Gallery operates on such a low budget, and artists submit work that they allow to be taken, a few missing works don't affect us. We can afford to be generous, even when we didn't intend to be.

There is a Buddhist saying - we don't own anything, we just take care of our things until someone wants them more than we do.

On Theft and Vandalism

  1. Having a work stolen is the highest honor of the Budget Gallery because it means someone wanted the work so badly they were willing to abandon personal and societal mores to acquire your piece of art. In our eyes, this may be considered a more valuable compliment to you than a simple monetary transaction. 

  2. Adopted is the justification that some people might give for stealing the work. They feel like they don't want the artwork left out on the street and will therefore take ownership of the work 

  3. We consider vandalism a form a collaboration the artist did not anticipate.